People Took DNA Tests To Learn Their Ethnicities

by Lara Rutherford-Morrison

In a new video, BuzzFeed had five people do DNA tests to find out their ethnicity. Using genetic test kits from 23andMe, the group, also known as the Test Friends, was able to get surprisingly specific results about their ancestors’ origins. Some were more surprised by their results then others, but the experiment proved one thing for sure: It’s hard to fill a test tube with spit.

The video begins by showing the group giving their DNA samples — test tubes filled with saliva. The project of getting spit into a small vial proves to be a (pretty gross) challenge of its own. They speculate about what their results will be. One participant, Jen, warns, “If it turns out that I’m not Italian or not Japanese, your gonna blow my f*cking mind.”

The group gets their results back, and a genetic counselor helps them interpret the data. A couple of the participants were not at all surprised by their results. Maycie, for instance, found at that she was 99.9 percent Northern European, which is mostly what she expected. “I just learned that I’m a basic white girl,” she concluded. Others had more unexpected results. Jen, for example, learned that she was only about 31.7 percent Italian, rather that half, as she expected. The remaining 17.1 percent was simply identified as “Broadly Southern European.” She says that she’ll still identify as half-Italian, explaining, “Regardless of what the genetic breakdown is, being an Italian-American is something that’s bigger than blood.”

One lesson that came out of the testing is that not all countries or geographic areas can be identified by a particular strain of DNA, due to the way that populations have migrated throughout civilization. Ryan, who identifies as half Mexican, for example, was shocked to discover that “Mexican” wasn’t listed any where on his results. Erynn Gordon, the genetic counselor, explains that “the population of Mexico is made up of other populations,” and suggests that Ryan’s indicators for Southern European and Native American ancestry could be markers for his Mexican heritage.

Participant Daysha says of the genetic testing,“I really enjoyed the whole experience. I think it’s really interesting to find out the unique things that make you you, like down to your DNA.”

Ryan ends on a profound note: “I never really thought of ancestry as a catalogue of boning throughout history.” Erynn adds, “It’s a combination of boning and migration.”

Watch the full video below:

Images: YouTube (3); Giphy